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Etienne honored as Big Ten Distinguished Scholar

Bahamian collegiate high jumper Jyles Etienne has yet another accolade under his belt, but this time it’s on the academic side as opposed to athletics.

Etienne, who excelled athletically as a junior for The Bahamas at CARIFTA and other regional and world meets, was among nine Indiana Hoosiers male track and field athletes, and a school record 96 Hoosiers in total, named as a Big Ten Distinguished Scholars on Wednesday. It was a significant improvement from the 67 Hoosier student-athletes who received the recognition for the 2018-19 school year.

In competition, Etienne was on target to accomplish massive heights this season until the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March. The college season was cut short, but not before the former CARIFTA Champion was able to turn in a number of top three finishes.

Etienne cleared a personal best 2.23 meters (m) – 7’ 3-3/4” – at the 2019 Hoosier Open in his school’s home facility, the Harry Gladstein Fieldhouse, in Bloomington, Indiana, in December 2019, taking the title at that event. In January, he had a trio of top three finishes climaxed with a 2.21m effort (7’ 3”) at the 2020 Indiana University Relays, again at the Harry Gladstein Fieldhouse. Then, at the end of February, Etienne claimed his first Big Ten title, matching his personal best of 2.23m indoors.

For his efforts, he was named as a U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-American, finishing in a six-way tie for ninth in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Indoor Rankings. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the season came to an abrupt halt just before the NCAA Indoor Championships in March.

This latest accolade is a testament to what Etienne was able to accomplish in the classroom, though. He earned a grade point average (GPA) of 3.71 this year, bringing his cumulative GPA up to 3.22. To be eligible for the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award, an athlete had to compete in sports for a full year while maintaining at least a 3.7 GPA.

Etienne, 21, said he is humbled by the recognition.

“This just shows that all of the hard work that I put in during the year has paid off,” he said. “This is the first time I am being honored for an academic achievement. Before it was just athletics, so it feels good to be recognized as a top scholar. I feel that this is a good accomplishment for me. The hardest thing for me was time management. Once I balanced my time appropriately, I was able to do well academically – go to bed on time and do homework on time in order to be well rested and ready to compete. That played a big part in everything I was able to accomplish this past year.”

Big Ten faculty representatives established the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award in 2008 to supplement the Academic All-Big Ten program. The award encompasses only students with a minimum GPA of 3.7 or higher for the previous academic year, excluding summer school, while the Academic All-Big Ten threshold is a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher for a student’s academic career.

As for Etienne, going forward for the remainder of the year and into the 2020-2021 season, he said he is optimistic. He is looking to perform well in his senior year in school, and also to qualify for the 2020 Olympics which has been pushed back to the summer of 2021, still in Tokyo, Japan. The qualifying mark for the Olympics in the men’s high jump is 2.33m (7’ 7-3/4”). Etienne has personal best leaps of 2.23m indoors and 2.20m (7’ 2-1/2”) outdoors.

“Once I get that mark (2.33m), I believe that everything else will fall into play and I will be able to achieve success,” he said. “The Olympics being pushed back means more time to improve for me. If I had the mark, I would have felt a little disappointed but this gives me more time to make that mark. This postponement will work in my favor, I believe.”

The Olympics is now set for July 23 to August 8, 2021. Etienne said that training has been a bit difficult for him since the closure of tracks and facilities in March due to COVID-19, but now that he is home and the national facility is open, he is able to put in some work.

“Well, I’m starting to get back into it. Being here in Nassau, I’m able to train fives days per week with Coach James Rolle, so it’s going good,” he said. “I’m hoping to set a PR (personal best height) at the nationals on August 1, and then return to Indiana after that. Being home is a benefit for me right now,. The people back at school can’t even use the track, so it’s good that I could come out here and train hard with my coach.”

A subdued Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) National Open Championships is set for August 1. Locally, here at home, Etienne trains with Coach Rolle and his Leap of Faith Club.

As for his collegiate goals for his senior season, Etienne said he is looking to repeat as Big Ten Indoor Champion, do well at the indoor nationals and excel outdoors as well. He wants to culminate the season by qualifying for the Olympics, and representing The Bahamas well at that global competition.

The sky remains the limit for the 6’5” high jumper from The Bahamas.

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